When we planted our strawberries in early 2016, we were excited by the prospect of eating fruit this summer – we’ve always been vegetable farmers, so it’s exciting new territory for us. For the first year of most fruit crops, growers are encouraged to pick the flowers off of new plants in order to allow energy to be directed to root development. It wasn’t easy to convince ourselves to forgo the fruit, but we obediently followed the instructions. Turns out it was good advice because we are currently flooded with perfect berries! What a delight it is to see new red fruit on the plants every time we walk by the patch at the back of our vegetable field! The berry perfume is just intoxicating.
I am still further amazed by the fact that the fruit we’ve been harvesting is so perfect. As you know, we never apply “-icides” to any of the food we grow here (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides), and Organic, No-Spray fruit is even harder to grow than it’s equivalently-raised vegetables. That sweet aroma attracts any number of pests, from insects to rodents, and berries that grow low to the ground and have very thin skin are susceptible to fungal disease and rot issues due to soil proximity and lack of airflow. Even with organically-approved fungicides/pesticides, commercial organic growers have a much riskier time growing fruit than conventional growers. Understanding these realities, I was fully (and happily!) anticipating a whole lot of damaged but delicious fruit that we could make into jam or freeze for smoothies. The fact that we have enough beautiful berries for our freezer and more for customers is a delight.
As we talked about all this over strawberries, Jonathan reminded me of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list that identifies the top dozen foods with the heaviest pesticide load at the grocery store. I checked their website for the updated 2017 list and guess what crop comes in at number 1?? Yup… Strawberries. You’ll notice that there are many fruit crops on this list, sprayed heavily for the reasons I mentioned above. That’s a particularly gross situation for those thin-skinned berries like raspberries and strawberries because the “-icides” soak into the fruit’s flesh and can’t be washed off the way they can be from an apple or plum. Plenty of vegetables show up on that list too, so be sure to adjust your shopping habits if you care to avoid eating chemicals with dinner!